What exactly does Apple do when law enforcement or other government agencies ask for the personal information of a customer from a locked iOS device? The answers to this question can be found on the new guidelines that the company has published on its website. While there’s really nothing new about this new guideline called “Legal Process Guidelines U.S. Law Enforcement” it now shows what type of data the company is able to retrieve.
On its website the company wrote “These Guidelines are provided for use by law enforcement or other government entities in the U.S. when seeking information from Apple Inc. (“Apple”) about users of Apple’s products and services, or from Apple devices. Apple will update these Guidelines as necessary.”
Only requests made by U.S. agencies are covered by the new guidelines. Customers whose data will be accessed will be notified by the company except in cases where it is illegal to do so or will put people in danger. Most information would require a subpoena before being turned over to the government.
So what type of information can the company easily access? With a valid search warrant Apple can easily access music, photos, applications, contacts, calendars, and documents as long as the customer has stored the information in iCloud. If the information has been deleted by the customer from the company’s online storage service then it can’t be accessed at all.
A customer’s email communication can also be accessed as long as there is a wiretap order. Apple however disclosed that it cannot access communications sent using iMessage or FaceTime since both modes of communications are encrypted.
Apple also clarified that it will only extract the information required from a locked iOS device at its Cupertino headquarters. Law enforcement officials must bring the device there and must provide a removable storage to store the retrieved information.